Outsmarting "the schwinger"

Mixing it up with a big fish for a rare deal in midtown

There was one big Jewish real-estate operator that I ran across a fair amount who is not necessary to name. Suffice to say that he had a reputation as big dealmaker. He was a real schwinger when it came acquiring properties, and that’s what I called him, the schwinger. A guy like that with very deep pockets was too much competition for me, who was usually looking for bargains.

One time in the mid-1990s I was able to outwit him on a deal for a building on West 54th Street in Midtown. It was a foreclosure on a failed coop conversion. I was working with a banker on it, and it turns out that the same guy was also dealing with the schwinger. He was playing us off against the other.

I mentioned a number, and the banker replied that I would have to do better than that, which gave me an idea what the schwinger was offering. The next day we went to the bank with our bids in sealed envelopes. Ronnie was with me sitting there in the lobby, and the schwinger’s representative was there too. You could see he thought he had it in the bag. 

What Ronnie and the competition didn't know is my offer went up again, enough so that we got the building, and as things turned out it paid off handsomely. Yes, I paid over market price at the time, but today I could get five times as much for it.